Last week, I talked about different ways to lay out blocks, whether you are making a large quilt or a smaller quilt, like a wall hanging. That is one of the design elements that goes into making a quilt. This week I want to go back even further and show you things that inspire my ideas and help me to design blocks and quilts. These inspirations can be out in the world or they can come from something as simple as an antique quilt. Share your thoughts and comments below and be entered into a drawing for my book, Blooming Patchwork. Let’s get started with the fun!
Design Inspiration from Out in the World
Inspiration is everywhere. At least it is for me. From a pattern on a building to an iron gate to windows. Even a lampshade! Here’s three photos I took that I return often to to get some inspiration.
That window on the right? That inspired the border for this pattern below that was in Primitive Quilts & Projects in the spring of 2014:
The iron gate in the photos above can possibly inspire an appliqué motif. You’d be surprised where inspiration comes from. That semi-circle window photo taken in 2012 at the school where I took my son for his freshman year led to the border on this project above.
Here’s another inspiration:
I took a photo of a pattern on a lampshade and it led me to thinking about making chevrons in a quilt pattern. So, along came Celebrations!
Finally, the photo below on the left inspired the idea for the border on my Sister’s Reunion quilt (right), with a little variation. This was a pattern I found on a tile floor!
Design Inspiration from Antique Quilts
I often look through books of 18th and 19th century quilts to get some design inspiration. I like to take traditional blocks and elements from these quilts and work them into a design for today. Here’s a quilt I found in a book on antique quilts (left) and my quilt, Homestead Trail, on the right.
I changed up the look of this traditional block by replacing the solid alternating block with a sashing and nine-patch corner stones. This created interesting movement that continues into the border of the quilt.
My next inspiration came from album or autograph quilts and quilt blocks I found in a lot of antique books. The traditional name for this block is the Album Cross block.
The block above (right) is from an album quilt made in the 1840’s in New York state. Quilts made from these blocks were usually presented to someone who was leaving a community. Friends and family of the person receiving the quilt would write or embroider a message in the block. The signer would sign their name with the date and sometimes add a message for the quilt’s new owner. This style of block is only one of the many types of blocks used in album or “friendship” quilts. These quilts were very popular in the 19th century when many people were leaving family and friends to move west.
But of course for me, I wanted to find a way to make this block easier… translation, with NO “Y” or set in seams. I hate doing those so I do not like to design quilt patterns with those types of seams. Here is the block I came up with:
To make the block above, I created this unit below. And when I made four and stitched them together, I got the look of the vintage Album Cross without the stress!
Here’s the blocks I made (left) and then the resulting two projects in the pattern, Scrap Basket Duo.
Finally, for this week’s post, another traditional block that inspired me was the spool block. I saw this quilt in a book and thought I’d love to adapt that into a quilt pattern:
The spool block has many versions that have been around since the 19th century. Quilt blocks were often designed and named for ordinary household items. I image the women who designed and named this block based it on the wooden spools that held their thread.
Again, I re-designed the spool block so there was no “Y” or set in seams. Here’s my pattern Bloomin’ Spools and a close up of the block I created.
If you look closely at the blocks I made, you can see the seams showing I made these blocks in a nine-patch fashion.
So that’s it for this week. Share your thoughts and comments below. I’d like to know if I inspired you with these inspirations of mine or I’d like to hear some of yours. I will drawer a name from commenters and you will win a copy of my book, Blooming Patchwork!
The drawing will be on Monday, January 24th. Good luck! ***We have a winner! Congrats, Cynthia Given!***
This gives me ideas on how to look at existing quilts to redesign blocks & quilts. Thanks!
Another great article! I also see all sorts of items that inspire me but mostly for applique projects. Very interesting to see how you take the inspiration and “work it” to make the quilt block. Thanks.
This has been a great article. I often take pictures of color combinations in nature, whether plants and flowers or sky and clouds. Then I can use them for inspiration in choosing the colors for a quilt. Now I feel challenged to find some vintage quilt blocks I have from my great-grandmother and let them inspire the quilt design. That would be so much fun as I have not yet come up with my own quilt design.
Debra Gutenson says
Great ideas! It’s a good reminder to pay attention to what’s around me. I need to start jotting down these ideas in a notebook so I can remember them later!!
Joellyn Partyka says
I love looking at floors and columns in churches, driveway patterns, gates & fences, and even fabric itself for quilting inspiration and motifs. There are quilting patterns to try everywhere it seems.
Linda McAfoos says
Great article! Always learning something from your blog.
This was a wonderful article. I need to take more pictures and keep a diary of ideas and colors I see. I love nature and the colors it has to inspire me also. I also like the dark colors that Amish use in their quilts. The contrast is amazing! Thanks for your ideas!
Thank you once again for such great information on how you find design inspiration. I find Tiffany artwork, French & Spanish architecture, doorways, gates, rooftops, etc. always thought provoking for quilt blocks and colours. I look at the insides of tulips, peonies and other flowers when looking for colour combinations for my appliqué flowers. I like take photos or cut out little pictures to keep in my scrapbook for later reference.
Brenda Tucker says
Thanks so much for all you do! I’m very lucky to be the only one who wanted “those old quilts” from my granny & great aunt!!! My cousins thought I was crazy to want them… I’m a newbie, not quite ready to attempt something like the Ohio Star, one of my granny’s favorite patterns. But, it’s on my to do list because of you!
I have a few inspirational photos saved, too. Thank you for showing me how you transferred the inspiration into your quilts! It’s so helpful!
Cynthia Given says
Another welcome validation that quilting like all art is based on what the eye sees. Thanks so much for this re-inspiration.
Beth Conkwright says
I just found your website. I’m interested in wool applique. Excited for a chance to win your book. Thanks.
How interesting the way your eye sees things! I have started to look at things differently now that I’ve seen how simple (or ornate) items can be inspirations for quilts. Amazing!
We need to keep our eyes wide open, there is inspiration everywhere, but we don’t see it. Thanks for the injection of ideas!!
I am new to wool appliqué and have just completed a small piece using a cotton background. The wool pieces seem to pull a bit on the background because of the difference in weight. Should I add batting or another layer of the background fabric for more stability? I love working with wool!
My first suggestion is to make sure you are not pulling your appliqué stitches too tight. If you are worried about losing size of your piece, you can cut the background bigger (if it is not a pieced background), appliqué the motif, then trim the piece to size.
I’ve never tried this, but you can perhaps stabilize the fabric background with interfacing like it’s used when making t-shirt quilts.
Thanks so much! My stitches don’t seem tight. I’ll try your interfacing suggestion. It was a pieced background and the fabric that rippled a bit seems to be a little thinner than the rest of the background. I’m enjoying your site..